Various Artists: Masters of Boogie Piano

C. Michael Bailey By

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Various Artists: Masters of Boogie Piano

Delmark’s 50th Anniversary Collection, Part 5

The subtext is simple—a perfectly balanced left hand augmented by a bouncing, out-of-control right hand crossed with the 12-bar blues turned from 33&1/3 to 78. All of this equals boogie woogie piano. Speckled Red barely contains himself on "Wilkins Street Stomp," while Meade Lux Lewis strides his way through a fragment of his "Bear Cat Crawl." Red proves to be a more primal force, lacking the finesse of Lewis and making up for it with power and exuberance. Sir Charles Thompson updates the sound on his 2000 recording of "A Boogie Woogie." Listed as "Traditional, Public Domain," one would suspect that Thompson simply sat down and played and recorded what popped into his head. That is the true beauty of blues and boogie woogie, those 12-bars are going to change little from slow to fast. Thompson’s quote of Basie is cute also.

Roosevelt Sykes was called "The Honey Dripper." He hailed from Helena, Arkansas and had a personality as large as the entire South. "North Gulf Port Boogie" was recorded in the early ‘60s and readily expresses Sykes vocal and piano prowess in spite of the muddy mix (which for historical documents like this is beside the point). Pete Johnson’s "66 Stomp" is closer to true stride piano than any of the other pieces on the disc. It is also the only cut supported by a full band. The chronologically most recent recording is Ken Saydak’s "Clo Clo Boogie," support by drummer Greg Bigger. The sound is superb and the swing is relentless.

But it is still the main three—Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson — who rule the roost of boogie woogie piano. Individually, they raise the form to high art, and when playing together, as on "Boogie Woogie Prayer," they convene High Mass. This disc is just over 39 minutes long and contains a broad array of piano. For the price, this disc is an excellent investment.

For more information, see Delmark Records .

Track Listing: Speckled Red

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Delmark Records | Style: Blues

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